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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Health district chief’s vision

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One of your journalists recently challenged me to set out a vision for the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD).

The NNSW LHD Board, supported by management, has recently developed a five-year strategic plan, which sets out a comprehensive vision for the district.

Within this more comprehensive vision is a vision for the hospital services of the Richmond/Tweed, to which your journalist was referring.

The Richmond/Tweed Hospital vision is to build up two very sophisticated referral hospitals, being The Tweed (TTH) and Lismore Base (LBH) hospitals, with each supported by two strong district hospitals, being Murwillumbah and Byron Shire Central, and Ballina and Casino hospitals respectively, which will offer generalist and some sub-acute (eg rehabilitation) services. The outlying districts will be serviced by a multipurpose service/small hospital model.

During my time as chief executive the services available at LBH and TTH have expanded significantly. When the PET/CT and MRI services are commissioned in October, LBH will have a wider range of services available than any regional hospital in Australia.

TTH also continues to have its services expanded with an upgraded pathology service recently opened and a new procedure room and an MRI service currently being developed. As well, a clinical services plan, which will guide the next major stage of TTH expansion, is just about complete.

The district hospitals have also had new services added during my time as chief executive with a rehabilitation unit established at Ballina Hospital and a CT scanner service at Murwillumbah Hospital. Funding of $1 million has been secured from government to complete the planning for the Byron Shire Central Hospital, which is currently underway.

A major weakness identified in this network of hospitals is the infrastructure of the LBH Emergency Department (ED). After years of strong advocacy for funding to develop a new emergency department, an allocation of $80 million has been announced by the federal ($60m) and state governments ($20m) to allow this new ED to be developed.

So within no more than one hour’s travel patients can receive low- to medium-acuity treatment in their own locality at a district hospital and within up to 90 minutes’ travel time they can receive higher-level care, all within the Richmond/Tweed region. This is the NNSW LHD vision, which we are progressively turning into a reality.

Chris Crawford, chief executive, Northern NSW Local Health District

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